Venus has been, in many ways, the ugly stepchild of planetary exploration. Venus is shrouded in clouds of sulfuric acid, with a dense atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide, a surface pressure of 92 times that of Earth, and temperatures of 842 degrees F. The sheer difficulty of exploring the second planet from the sun has caused NASA and other national #Space agencies to shy away from the planet in favor of Mars. No one contemplates landing people on Venus anytime soon.

However, according to Forbes, NASA is considering a mission to Venus called Zephyr that would place a “landsail” on the surface of the planet. The probe would be a rover with a stiff “sail” attached to it with solar cells embedded in it.

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The 26-foot sail would be sufficient to propel the rover 100 yards per day even in two miles per hour winds from Venus’ thick atmosphere.

Zephyr will need a flat surface to land on if it is to maneuver effectively. Scientists are looking at the foot of Theia Mons, a shield volcano where the Soviet Venera 10 landed more than 40 years ago. Venera 10 returned black and white pictures of a flattened surface with rounded rocks.

Zephyr, weighing 400 pounds, will carry just a few instruments, “a high-resolution color panoramic camera; weather instrumentation; a robotic arm and drill with an alpha particle x-ray spectrometer to determine chemical compositions.” The landsail would also contain a radio communicator that would send data and images to an orbiter which would relay them back to Earth.

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The instruments would weigh just 50 pounds.

The probe would benefit with modern electronics, which include new silicon carbide and gallium nitride semiconductor technology. The technology did not exist even a decade ago and would allow Zephyr to function under the immense pressure and high temperature of the surface of Venus for at least 50 days. Previous Soviet-era landers have only lasted from few hours to a few days before succumbing to the harsh conditions of Venus.

If Zephyr gets funded under NASA’s Discovery program, it will launch in 2023 and make a five-month voyage to Venus. The probe would enter orbit around the planet and then the rover would detach and descend to its surface. #News #Science